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Let's Get Reading!

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Teaching Philosophy 

Learning to read is a transformative process that increases understanding, confidence, empathy, global awareness, and self-knowledge. But for some children, learning to read is a frustrating struggle that leads to anxiety, self-doubt and avoidance. Too often this struggle stems from well-meaning but ineffective teaching methods.


It doesn't have to be this way. 


Current research in the science of reading demonstrates that all students can benefit from structured, individualized and responsive literacy instruction. Explicit instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness is critically important for all developing readers and especially for students with indicators of dyslexia. At Forest Heights Reading Center, students receive one-to-one structured literacy instruction specifically developed to support their growth during all stages of literacy development. Through meaningful and comprehensive reading and writing experiences, students achieve a solid literacy foundation and a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Customized, Structured Literacy  ​Program

The International Literacy Association advises that teaching reading is “too complex a task for a scripted, one-size-fits all program."

While the foundational literacy skills needed to become strong readers and effective writers are the same for all children, some children acquire these skills more slowly and with more difficulty. For these students, instruction 

must be more explicit and comprehensive, more intensive, and more supportive than the instruction many students receive in a typical classroom setting.  This approach is defined as Structured Literacy instruction and is often referred to as the Orton-Gillingham method. Structured Literacy instruction is a systematic, explicit, multi-sensory approach  that is highly effective for all students' literacy development and critically important for students who struggle with reading and spelling.

At Forest Heights Reading Center, each student receives customized instruction based on intake assessment results and specific learning goals. Individual instructional plans are developed using an evidence based curriculum to create an engaging, structured, and comprehensive literacy program tailored to each student's learning goals, instructional needs, and personal interests.

Structured, Multi-Sensory,
Orton-Gillingham Based
Literacy Instruction


Meaningful and effective literacy instruction does not happen by chance. Decades of research into the science of reading indicates that effective literacy instruction must include structured and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, fluency,  and reading comprehension. Structured instruction based on the Orton-Gillingham method ensures that students have mastered each literacy skill before moving on and the sequential teaching of skills builds upon prior learning. Multi-sensory teaching engages students in the learning process and heightens understanding. Students build confidence in their own capabilities and experience success at their own pace.  

Individualized lessons match the growth and on-going developmental needs of each student. Learning is monitored and measured regularly and progress results are shared with students and parents. 

Experienced Teacher

Leah Wannell, owner and founder of Forest Heights Reading Center LLC, is a state licensed English Language Arts teacher and Reading Interventionist with over 15 years of teaching experience.  Leah's mission has always been to use effective and engaging teaching methods to inspire her students to become life-long readers, effective writers, and critical thinkers.

To meet the distinct needs of students with dyslexia, Leah has completed extensive training in the Orton-Gillingham method and Structured Literacy Instruction.  Leah works to support students and their families in understanding dyslexia and related topics, including dysgraphia, local and national education legislation, school IEP & 504 accommodation plans, and current brain research. 

Leah's students are empowered to recognize their learning strengths and challenges and to advocate for their own learning needs. Above all, Leah is  passionate about helping students achieve their goals and grow into confident and capable readers, writers, and thinkers.  

Dyslexia Research
What is dyslexia?

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity defines dyslexia as "an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. It is most commonly due to a difficulty in phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to read and retrieve words with automaticity.

Dyslexia is highly prevalent, affecting 20% of the population and representing 80-90% of all learning disabilities. While those with dyslexia are often slow readers, they are often very fast and creative thinkers with excellent reasoning skills." 

Early Signs of Dyslexia

Characteristics that may predict or be associated with dyslexia are evident in children as early as pre-school. Parents and teachers should watch for children who have difficulty pronouncing common words, identifying rhymes, and recognizing the letters in their name. In school age children, the most common signs are difficulty with learning letters and corresponding sounds and slow, laborious reading; spelling, handwriting, organizing written language, and memorizing number facts are also difficult. Children with dyslexia often demonstrate excellent comprehension skills when text is read aloud to them. 

Is Your Child Struggling? Act Now

If your child is struggling with language or reading, it is never too early to intervene. As Dr. Sally Shaywitz states in Overcoming Dyslexia, “The human brain is resilient, but there is no question that early intervention and treatment bring about more positive change at a faster pace than an intervention provided to an older child. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the quicker your child can get help, and the more likely you are to prevent secondary blows to her self-esteem.”

What Really Works For Struggling Readers? 

According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), "The most difficult problem for students with dyslexia is learning to read. Unfortunately, popularly employed reading approaches, such as Guided Reading or Balanced Literacy, are not effective for struggling readers. These approaches are especially ineffective for students with dyslexia because they do not focus on the decoding skills these students need to succeed in reading. What does work is Structured Literacy, which prepares students to decode words in an explicit and systematic manner. This approach not only helps students with dyslexia, but there is substantial evidence that it is more effective for all readers."  


Students with dyslexia need help from a teacher, tutor, or therapist specially trained in using a systematic, explicit, multi-sensory,  and structured approach to language. This  type of instruction goes by several names, the most common of which are Structured Literacy and the Orton-Gillingham method.  



     "The biggest sign of success to me is that I now have to tell my daughter, 'You have to stop reading. It is way past your bedtime!'"

— William, parent 

      "I just wanted to let you know how enjoyable your class was and how much I feel I've improved as a writer. I've looked back at some of my writing from last year, and I can't believe the progress I've made. So I just wanted to thank you for guiding me in the right direction. "     


- Elyse R., student

     "Leah is incredibly thorough and thoughtful in her efforts to meet the needs of her students. It is clear that she cares deeply about her students' success and would be a strong advocate for them."

— Tonya Peterson, Title 1 Reading Teacher, Canby School District

Young Girl Reading
Student on a Break
Teacher and Kids in Library

Forest Heights Reading Center, LLC 


Portland, OR 97229

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